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Gaming History You Should Know – The Early History of Virtual Reality October 12, 2020

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I know it’s not Sunday, but where I’m from today is a bank holiday and because of that we’ve had essentially a three-day weekend. I know that’s not the best excuse but hey, I didn’t want to have to wait another week to highlight this great video.

Welcome back to Gaming History You Should Know, an ongoing series where we highlight some of the best independently produced gaming documentaries from across the web. Today, we’ll be talking about Virtual Reality (VR). In today’s day, VR is seeing something of a second renaissance. VR setups like Oculus, Vive and PlayStation VR have a modest install base and even I have to admit I’m becoming an enthusiast.

However, with the power of modern PCs (and consoles) capable of pushing high 3D resolutions, and refresh rates, today’s VR gamers can look forward to a decent immersive experience. However VR is not a new concept and it’s first wave of popularity came in the early-to-mid 90s. 3D games like DOOM were just entering the market, pushing the demand for high-end PCs, and smart businessmen had the idea to provide a gaming experience that made you feel like you were INSIDE the game. Enter Virtuality.

In the early 90s, Virtuality developed (at the time) real-time 3D games with the intention to pair it with Virtual Reality setups. However, due to the cost of computer hardware and limitations at the time, their setups were big, expensive, and graphics were limited to keep consistent framerate. With a single VR unit costing around (at the time) $20,000, home VR setups were just impractical. However, arcades of the day were seeing a second wave of popularity thanks to recent arcade releases like Mortal Kombat, and investing in something like a VR machine and renting time on it seemed like a no brainer decision. This is how I had my first VR experiences.

Check out this great documentary produced by the YouTube channel Nostalgia Nerd. When people of my generation think of Virtual Reality (with all its highs and lows) they think of one of these Virtuality setups!

While the company may have long since folded, sold and resold many times over the years that’s not to say that Virtuality’s VR prospects were a complete failure. While they didn’t have access to the same technology we do today, it is incredible to see just what they could do back then. Since the company couldn’t use the same tiny motion tracking gyroscopes that are so common to have in every smartphone, controller and tablet today (since they weren’t invented yet) the tricks they used to compensate for their limitations should still be celebrated. They were able to produce VR games with full real-time head tracking in the days before even Quake hit the market.

I like to think VR will continue to prosper in today’s technology market. VR headsets for the PC and PlayStation are already out, and they will continue to function on newer hardware. So with the hardware in place, all we need now is the software. That, would be an article for another time.

Gaming History You Should Know – The Beginnings of Game Freak September 27, 2020

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It’s Sunday, and while we haven’t had the chance to post a new Gaming History You Should Know in a few weeks, it wasn’t due to a lack of great content being available, it was more because Sundays became really busy for me as of late. If you’re new here, this series highlights some of the best independently produced original gaming documentaries from across the web.

As we’ve previously reported, the Pokémon franchise is a multimedia powerhouse, but the company who originally created the game that brought it to the world came from very humble beginnings.

YouTube Legend Tamashi, known for her reviews of the Pokémon games, created this incredible television-length documentary about the history of the company who would go on to create Pokémon, Game Freak. She’ll tell you about where the company came from, and do a review of their very first game for the Famicom, err, Nintendo Entertainment System.

Tamashi has really outdone herself with this one. I totally recommend checking out her YouTube channel, because she does some great game reviews.

Gaming History You Should Know: MoCap LLC July 12, 2020

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I know I usually spend my Gaming History You Should Know articles highlighting some of the best fan produced content from across the web. Forgive me as I decided to give the history lesson personally today.

There once existed a basic cable channel called Spike TV. Billed as the “Channel For Men” it succeeded in being what networks like G4TV (after the TechTV merger) failed to copy, an exciting network with a decent mix of original and classic programming. Spike TV knew its audience, and knew that the people who watched their channel likely played video games, and while the station was not dedicated to games, the station broadcasted several gaming specials over the years including The Ultimate Gamer and Countdown to Launch. These were, as their name implies, occasional one-off specials that typically aired during the midnight launch of games like Halo or God of War, but I remembered enjoying them. By 2009, Spike TV moved into producing regular gaming-focused content. As gaming hit the mainstream, Spike TV offered a weekly gaming show called GameTrailers TV.

Hosted by Geoff Keighley, GameTrailers TV previewed upcoming games, showed behind-the-scenes content from game developers and highlighted major gaming events. To help the show’s pace, a series of live-action shorts were integrated into each episode focusing around the lives of people who “worked” in the gaming history, Mocap LLC. Starring Chris DeLuca, Kara Klenk, and Jon Gabrus, MoCap LLC was a comedy show about the business of gaming motion capture.

You know what, words fail me here, you’ll just have to see some of the original MoCap LLC shorts for yourself. They are thankfully still online but just be aware there will be some dirty words.

That was (of course) just the earliest examples of the show. More shorts followed, many of which were posted on the GameTrailers website (which is sadly now defunct). If you’d like to see all of them, check out their YouTube Channel.

Somehow, through what I can only describe as some kind of divine intervention, Spike TV announced they would be turning Mocap LLC into a limited series of six episodes, with actress Lauren Turek joining the group. Oh and we knew there would only be six episodes, because all of the network’s promotional advertisements for the show focused on that fact. The six 22-minute episodes aired during the mid-spring of 2009. The show aired its first episode in April and I loved it, but there was no consistency in the Spike TV schedule for some of the later episodes. Sometimes the episodes aired at midnight, sometimes they aired (I think) as late as 3:30am. This could’ve been because the episodes aired unbleeped, so maybe they had to air on super late night due to some arbitrary Spike TV standards, but that didn’t really excuse why the show moved around on the schedule so much. I know for a fact I missed watching at least one episode because of scheduling inconsistency. There’s only so late someone can stay awake to watch a show.

Rewatching the show today I can say I still love it but I honestly couldn’t tell you why I liked it as much as I do. Maybe it was the fact that it’s unabashed content was a breath of fresh air, or it could’ve been my appreciation a gaming-focused comedy series aired on a major cable channel at a time that simply didn’t happen. Even G4TV was moving away from gaming-focused content at that time and they were supposed to be a station that was entirely about games. So to see Spike TV air something like Mocap LLC gave me the feeling the network was sincere about its interest in gaming at that time, something G4 had (at that time) lost.

Okay, so now you’re probably asking yourselves, where can I watch the show? As far as I know, MoCap LLC never recieved a DVD or Blu-Ray Disc release back in the day. In fact I even remembered emailing Kara Klenk if she knew anything about a home video release back in the day but I never heard back. Episodes were sold digitally (unbleeped) on Xbox Live marketplace back in the day but the episodes were in a very poor-quality standard definition. While most of the episodes went up on the service quickly, I had to wait several months for them to post the final episode. Thankfully, Chris has reposted all six episodes (unbleeped) on his website. While the episodes are in matted SD quality, the picture quality is a billion times better than the versions Xbox Live offered.

If you liked the shorts and have the free time, give the show a watch. I’d like to think that while it was VERY brief, Mocap LLC served as a precursor to shows like Mythic Quest (on Apple TV+). Huge props to everyone involved with it, and to Chris for making the show available on his site. I hope you’re all doing well!

Gaming History You Should Know – The History of Showbiz Pizza’s Band June 28, 2020

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When I was a 90s kid, I was in love with arcades. It didn’t have to be special, but it had to have all the latest games, and maybe some VR headsets. However, if you were an 80s person, you might remember a specific arcade franchise that also served pizza and offered a cute animatronics show with anthropomorphic animal musicians. No, I’m not talking about Chuck E. Cheese, I’m talking about Showbiz Pizza.

Showbiz Pizza was an early amalgamation of restaurant and arcade, a business strategy later perfected by places like Dave and Busters. Unlike Dave and Busters, Showbiz Pizza would offer more than just arcade games while they waited for their food, their restaurants included a custom animatronics show starting an entirely original band, The Rockafire Explosion.

I know what you younger people are thinking, didn’t Chuck E. Cheese have an animatronic band and why haven’t I heard of The Rockafire Explosion but I’ve heard of Chuck E. Cheese? The Rockafire Explosion was a casualty of Mr. Cheese, but not in the way you might have guessed. So who created this crazy animatronic band, what is up with their characters, and why are they so fondly remembered to this day? This independently produced documentary, titled simply The Rockafire Explosion, answers all of those questions. In wake of Chuck E. Cheese declaring Bankruptcy this week, I think it is the perfect way to cap off your week.

Gaming History You Should Know – The History of DisneyQuest June 20, 2020

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It’s Sunday and we’re back with another Gaming History You Should Know, where we highlight some of the best independently produced gaming documentaries from across the Internet. Today, we’re going to tell a story about a well-themed arcade that just didn’t work out.

Children of the 80s probably remember the earlier days of Atari and Namco machines, and would flock to arcades to play games like PAC-MAN and Missile Command. Then, the crash of ‘82 happened and arcades began to evaporate. It would take a decade for a new generation of games to bring the arcade back. When I was a child in the early 90s, the arcades were packed with cutting edge titles like Mortal Kombat and Lethal Enforcers. By the end of the 90s, improved technology gave us more immersive games like Jurassic Park, Cruisin’ USA and Area 51. With the success of games like that, lots of arcades began to take chances on not only new games or new technlogies, but new ways to design their arcades to bring in newer players. Virtual Reality (VR) was offered as an option in some venues, but it was costly and the technology wasn’t there to provide the fast-paced realistic games that the platform demanded. Most VR players who tried the technology at the time weren’t happy with it.

In the early 2000s, Disney looked at the success of arcades and decided the time was right to throw the weight of their company behind a new venture. Disney has always been known as one of the most technology advanced companies in the world, with their films, television and theme parks wowing audiences since way before I was born. Disney has always been the best at providing a well-themed immersive experience to their customers, and that was exactly what was needed at the turn of the millennium.

As VR arcades started taking off, Disney decided to launch their own Disney-Branded VR arcade franchise, DisneyQuest. Two DisneyQuests were built at launch, with one in Chicago, Illinois and the other at Disney World in Orlando, Florida. For $36 US at entry, guests could come in and play all of the games on display, including tons of exclusive attractions you couldn’t play anywhere else. If successful, the plan was to open more venues all across North America.

So did DisneyQuest work? Sadly no. The third DisneyQuest venue in Philadelphia, PA was cancelled mid-construction. Chicago’s venue closed first after just a few brief years, but with the heavy tourist traffic of Walt Disney World, DisneyQuest Orlando was successful enough on its own to limp along without much further investment for nearly two decades before it finally shuttered.

So if DisneyQuest had the financial backing and access to the same high-end technology as used by one of the most successful companies in the world, why did it fail? Defunctland is an online documentary series created and hosted by a man who calls himself Kevin Perjurer. It focuses on the history of theme park rides and attractions that are no longer in operation. It also covers attractions that got far along in preproduction but were never built. It’s well researched and edited, with Kevin’s narration keeping you on the edge of your seat throughout the video. A while ago, Kevin took a look at the DisneyQuest franchise, went into its history and its demise. If you wanted to see what you could’ve done at this place in its heyday, give this a watch.

I must admit I have personally visited the DisneyQuest in Orlando, Florida but only once during a family vacation. The most impressive thing I remember from it was their Cyber Space Mountain simulator, which I challenged my cousin to ride with me. We both ended up having a great time on that trip, but seven years later when I visited the park again, I remember feeling that there was no need to check DisneyQuest out again. Perhaps that is why the venue failed, there was no incentive for repeat customers, something an arcade desperately needs to survive. Recently, arcades are seeing a resurgence with the success of venues like Dave and Busters and I have happily spent many free nights there for a happy hour special and some games. Everybody gets hungry and thirsty, and D&B’s decision to offer decent food with a constantly improving selection of new arcade games (in my opinion) succeeded where DisneyQuest failed.

If you’d like to check out more Defunctland, check out their YouTube Channel.

Gaming History You Should Know – The History of UNDERGRADS May 17, 2020

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It’s Sunday! Welcome back to Gaming History You Should Know, where we highlight some of the best independently produced gaming-related documentaries across the web. Today, I’m going to take you back to 2001, and talk about one of MTV’s most overlooked animated show, Undergrads.

Undergrads was an animated television series created by Pete Williams that focused around four college friends, Gimpy, Rocco, Nitz and Cal. The plan was for each season of the show to revolve around a year of college, so the first season focused on their Freshman year. I know what you’re thinking, what does this show have to do with gaming? A lot actually. We never actually see the characters go to class, the show revolves around what they do outside of work and studies. That involves a LOT of gaming, and several episodes focused on the characters playing different games ranging from the board game RISK to the PC game Quake III Arena. As far as I can remember, this was the first non-gaming focused television show that casually acknowledged that computer games existed, got gaming language correct, and wasn’t afraid to namedrop real games.

Sadly, Undergrads only lasted one season, and had a story that ended on a cliffhanger. Due to contract issues between MTV and Pete Williams, Pete was unable to continue the show on his own. However, nearly two decades after the show’s cancellation a light eventually appeared at the end of the tunnel.

Pete Williams intends to make an Undergrads movie and held a successful Kickstarter to start pre-production! But what makes this show so special, and if you’re unfamiliar with the show, why should you care as much as I do? Enter YouTube Channel RebelTaxi, which creates some incredible documentaries on animated shows and video games. Recently, he produced an incredible documentary about the history of Undergrads, up to this point. Give it a watch!

I’m really happy this movie will finally get released. The first season of Undergrads WAS my Freshman year of college. I do not say that lightly, pretty much every beat in the show happened to me at some point over the course of that year. I must credit Pete Williams for his sincerity for that, and with his decision to use correct gaming lingo.

So, after being silent for so long, what is the current status of Undergrads? I’ve got really good news for you. The creator of the show held a successful Kickstarter about a year ago, and pre-production of a film sequel has started. Here’s some test footage that has recently been posted.

Welcome back Nitz, Gimpy, Rocco and Cal. We missed you.

Gaming History You Should Know – Star Trek: The Experience May 10, 2020

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It’s Sunday and welcome to this week’s look at Gaming History You Should Know, where we highlight some of the best independently produced gaming-related documentaries. Come with me as we take a trip to Las Vegas circa 1997.

When I was a kid, I loved watching Star Trek. (ED NOTEYou don’t say?) The films Star Trek Generations and First Contact were on a regular rotation in my VCR and I would watch syndicated episodes of The Next Generation, The Original Series, Deep Space 9 and even Voyager on television while downloading patches and mods on my PC’s abysmally slow modem. In fact, I would argue I probably got a better education watching some specific episodes of Trek than I ever learned in school at the time.

People don’t give Star Trek enough credit these days. The show was revolutionary for its time and one could argue it was probably the biggest transmedia property of its day with interconnected movies, television shows, books and video games. Oh and did I mention that starting in the late 90s, you could actually have a first hand EXPERIENCE in the Star Trek world? You just had to spend some time at the Las Vegas Hilton.

In the late 90s, my parents took me on a vacation to Las Vegas, NV for the first time. Star Trek: The Experience would be something we were going to check out. Without spoiling any details, I believe I had the best time ever, and it cemented my fandom up until Enterprise wrecked it.

Star Trek The Experience would not last forever. A few short years after receiving a major Borg upgrade, the attraction closed in 2008. To this day, nothing like it has ever reopened anywhere in the world.

One month ago, the YouTube Channel Theme Park Backlot premiered this incredible look at the experience. He talks about its early history, what you could do in it, and why it is no longer there. Take it away!

I know what you’re thinking, what does this defunct Star Trek ride/show have to do with gaming? Well, the group who made this ride pioneered a lot of new show effects that only now places like Disneyland (with Rise of the Resistance) have been able to replicate. Seriously that transporter effect alone was worth the price of admission to STTE. You weren’t merely on a recreation of the Enterprise’s Bridge, the show’s story made it clear you were onboard THE Enterprise. In fact most of the original cast remarked (upon touring it themselves) the set built at the Hilton was identical to the set they spent eight years on down to the Easter Eggs.

With modern theme parks now building on The Experience’s foundation, they’ve started incorporating gaming-related features on top of their shows. Now, thanks to the power of real-time graphics, you can experience rides like Smuggler’s Run and actually fly the real Millennium Falcon through the Star Wars galaxy! There’s even in-park penalties guests could risk if they do poorly on the ride. If STTE hadn’t shuttered, who knows what new technology it could’ve incorporated?

Special thanks to Theme Park Backlot for letting us feature them in today’s article. Go and check out their YouTube Channel for more great videos!

Gaming History You Should Know – Nick Arcade May 3, 2020

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It’s Sunday and that means it’s time for a new look at Gaming History You Should Know! Any child of the 90s who had access to the cable service remembers the channel Nickelodeon. In the early 90s, that station was in the beginning of its reneissance period with the launch of animated shows like Doug, Rugrats and Ren and Stimpy, sitcoms like Salute Your Shorts, Hey Dude, and Welcome Freshmen, and game shows like Double Dare, Guts and the show we are going to be featuring today. Needless to say, when I was growing up, my television was glued on the station.

By the year 1992, the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis was on top of the Console market and Nickelodeon was interested in capturing some of the gaming magic. However, this was Nick, they weren’t satisfied with doing the minimum. Instead of producing a show about upcoming games, they produced a high-tech gaming competition that put the winners inside the virtual world decades before that kind of thing became available to the general public. The show was called Nick Arcade.

I know we’ve featured Nick Arcade in this segment one time before, but that was part of a larger segment that looked at a bunch of gaming-related children’s programming. Today, we’re going to focus only on that show, and we are going to do it from a new perspective. Wrestling with Gaming, developed this incredible documentary about the show.

A bit of a follow up from last week’s article. Did you know that there have apparently been a bunch of video game related theme park rides? This was news to me. Maybe in the future we’ll highlight others. Until then, stay safe out there.

Gaming History You Should Know – There Was a Final Fantasy Roller Coaster April 26, 2020

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I love video games and I love theme parks. When I was a kid in the 90s, Universal Studios Florida was the coolest place ever. I could ride a cable car while King Kong was attacking, get in a boat while Jaws terrorized the water, or ride a Deloroan Time Machine in Back to the Future. In the decades since then, Universal’s theme parks have opened all over the world, and one of their parks currently resides in Osaka, Japan. I know what you’re thinking, this video is going to be about the upcoming opening of Super Mario World, a new land where tourists can enter their favorite Nintendo video games, but if you’ve looked at the title you’ll know that is not what we are going to be talking about today. Today, I’m going to bring you back to 2018 for an event I’m shocked did not receive more attention here in the states.

It’s Sunday! Welcome back to Gaming History You Should Know, where we highlight some of the best independently produced content from across the Internet that focuses on the history of gaming. So sit back and relax as I tell you the story of what I think could be one of the coolest (but short-lived) experiences designed to make people feel like they are actually inside a video game.

Every year Universal Studios Japan hosts an event they call Universal Cool Japan where they highlight some of their favorite national properties that are…cool. In 2018, Universal Cool Japan would feature Detective Conan, Sailor Moon Monster Hunter…and Final Fantasy.

In 2018, for just a few months, Universal Cool Japan brought a Final Fantasy themed roller coaster, the Final Fantasy XR, to life. Final Fantasy XR was an indoor roller-coaster augmented with Virtual Reality (VR) footage. To make the coaster, Universal Studios Japan took their already existing Space Fantasy coaster and gave it a full Final Fantasy facelift. To give you an idea of just what went into this, YouTube Channel Edamame took some great footage of their experience with the ride. Take a look!

I think the Edamame video does a great job setting the stage for the ride with really high quality video (and subtitles) but if you’re looking for something more detailed I recomend this video produced by Yukendoit.

Sadly, no on ride footage was included in that video but some high-quality snippets of it has found its way online. As far as I can tell, the VR/AR footage used for the ride and the preshow videos were developed by Square Enix. Here’s some of the best on-ride footage I could find online mixed with a virtual model of the track.

If you’d like a bettet look at the ride’s preshow please check out this video. Sadly, it isn’t subtitled in English but this was the best quality video of it I could find.

There was also an incredible amount of exclusive Final Fantasy XR merch and food. Take a look at all this with envy!

Since Cool Japan 2018 wrapped, Final Fantasy XR has remained closed. As for what happened with the Final Fantasy XR content, its only legacy seems to be the footage that people took of the Cool Japan 2018 event. Final Fantasy would not return for Cool Japan 2019 or 2020, so the 2018 event might be the only time it will ever be shown.

Ironically, this was not the first, nor will it be the last time that a video game property would receive a real-world theme park ride, and perhaps we will talk about other times in future installments. Until next time, stay safe Kupo!

Gaming History You Should Know – History of Mirror’s Edge April 19, 2020

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Sunday is here, and if the world is ever going to resume some kind of sense of normality, it’s time we resumed our look at Gaming History You Should Know.

In 2008, EA did something they were rarely known for, they took chances on new IP. They released two major games that year, Dead Space and Mirror’s Edge. While I enjoyed Dead Space almost immediately after it launched, it would be a year before I sat down and played Mirror’s Edge for the first time. I don’t know what it was, the art style, the music, or the gameplay of that first game just gripped me and held on tight. I also loved playing the game on the iPhone and iPad. On the other hand, the more recent game, Mirror’s Edge Catalyst, never really sparked my attention and I have yet to play it.

YouTube Channel GVMERS, who we’ve highlighted in the past for their fantastic gaming history documentaries, made a documentary about this cult classic franchise.

Maybe now I should give Catalyst a look?